Sometimes, one simple swipe on a smartphone can change everything.
Two months ago, Matt Swanson swiped from left to right on his screen and picked up a call from Boehler Racing. That call, which came just one night before the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s Bud “King of Beers” 150 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, changed his path completely.
The Acton, Massachusetts, driver was competing part-time on the Whelen Modified Tour driving a family-owned No. 89, and planned to make at least a few more events before the season came to a close.
With Rowan Pennink on the sidelines celebrating the birth of his first child, Swanson had the opportunity to sit behind the wheel of the famed ‘Ole Blue’.
“It was probably one of the biggest breaks I have ever gotten in my career, and one of those phone calls I probably won’t ever forget,” Swanson recalled. “My big shot to try and go back full-time — that’s what that phone call meant to me.”
After a second-place finish that night, in his first race with a new team, Swanson went back to his family operation, looking forward to the next event. While Rowan Pennink finished eighth at Bristol Motor Speedway in August, his back started bothering him again, and he subsequently decided to retire from competition.
That gave Swanson the opportunity to drive the car for the remainder of the 2018 season, and, maybe beyond.
“Just to drive the No. 3 car, it’s such a famous car in the Whelen Modified Tour car, and only so many people get to add their name to that list of drivers,” Swanson said. “To be able to add my name to that list, it just means that much more to me.”
The 18-year-old finished sixth at New York’s Oswego Speedway, but since then, he’s been on the sidelines at the checkered flag of the last three events after being caught up in three wrecks.
“I feel like Riverhead was just Riverhead, it was one of those deals where anything can happen there,” Swanson said. “At Loudon, I take it as a racing deal. It was probably early for me to be making a move like that, but we showed speed all weekend and I felt bad that I put my team in that situation.
“Stafford, it was honestly just a racing deal. Someone lost it in front of me, I tried to go around them, and I chose the wrong lane. That’s what racing is, it is just what happens. A majority of the time, the bad times lead to some better good times.”
Now, with just one race remaining on the Whelen Modified Tour schedule, the Sunoco World Series 150 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, Swanson is hoping to gain that one more spot on the high-banks.
To end the season with his first career checkered flag would mean a lot heading into the offseason.
“We know we have good speed at Thompson, we proved that in August to come from the back after getting washed up the track. The amount of speed we showed there with such a short amount of time together, I feel like we will have a really good shot to go there and hopefully the good luck starts coming back to my side,” Swanson said.
He is hoping the season-finale brings a strong result for everyone involved with the team.
“When you drive for someone else, you have people who have been working on this car for so many years, they know what this car is capable of,” Swanson said. “They are taking a kid that they have run four races with and giving him a shot to try and go out there and win every week. The last three races we haven’t finished, you have to keep everyone’s morale up and everyone boosted. You can’t let anyone get down or discouraged.”
“These cars are bad fast and we have the possibility to win everywhere we go.”